Monday, 25 May 2009

Student market rakes in profits & Durban leads!

{pp}South Africa’s recession has still not hit the student market with it remaining the top incubator for new cell phone technology.
There seems to be no limits to student’s appetite for airtime, MXit Moola or a desire to experiment with any new cell phone technology whether it is the latest games, videos, ringtones or cell phone payment system.
For slightly more than two months, Pocit, a South African-based cell phone payment system launched in October last year, has ran a campaign on eight university campuses to promote the brand. It was incredibly successful; total registered users of Pocit increased 15 times and while most students initially used it primarily to buy airtime, they are increasingly using it for cell phone payments to friends and others.

Initially students in Johannesburg led the highest volume of users, but in the end it was Durban students who showed the highest levels of ingenuity and excitement around using the product.

The four finalists in the competition all came from the University of KwaZulu Natal; Gcinokuhle Buthelezi, Kito Maharaj, Deeshan Rampathy and Kenan Israel all said they found out about Pocit from friends. Each time the students used Pocit to make and receive payments, refer their friends to Pocit or buy airtime, they would get an entry into the draw to win a Ford Fiesta.

The Fiery Ford Fiesta Giveaway took place on 11 May 2009 in front of a large crowd on the UKZN Westville campus. The finalists were invited to step up to the Pocit competition wall and from there they had to select one envelope from a wall of eight. If the envelope contained a Pocit logo, they won. Excitement increased when no-one picked the correct envelope from the Pocit wall which meant that all four finalists went into a draw to win. Twenty-two year old Deeshan Rampathy who is studying optometry at UKZN Westville was the winner. He mostly uses Pocit to buy airtime and MXit Moola. In addition, UKZN won the highest number of runner up prizes in the form of iPod shuffles and Nano’s with more than half going to students at UKZN on Howard and Westville campuses, just over a third to Gauteng (the Universities of the Witwatersrand and Johannesburg) and the remainder to students at the universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch.

Pocit’s experience has again shown the remarkable successes that can be achieved by targeting students. Even though they don’t have stable incomes, most relying on pocket money from parents or part-time jobs, their average spend is significant and they form the top-end of the market of the future. After registering with Pocit, you will automatically have Pocit Money Store from which you can make and receive payments. Pocit Money represents money that you can use on Pocit for real time payments. When you add your bank account to Pocit, you can transfer money into and out of your Pocit Money store. Pocit Money is a virtual money store, much like the gift cards you can buy at all sorts of shops these days. The gift card represents money that you can use at that shop at any time.

We found that using Facebook, various on campus media (posters, res door hangers, online) and a highly visible Pocit figure dressed in bright orange making appearances on campuses, coupled with low-monetary incentives for frequent use. We had to bring on additional call centre staff to deal with the volume of requests, suggestions and feedback. Initial signups were in the hundreds in the first week and rapidly went into the thousands each week by the final weeks and growth has continued. The competition fuelled repeat usage as the more times the students used Pocit, the more entries they got in the draw but we are continuing to see consistent use of Pocit to buy airtime (and now also MXit Moola) and for payments, which means that we anticipate maintaining ongoing high use of the product now that the competition has ended.

In any new product, but especially one involving sending or receiving money, establishing trust and confidence in security mechanisms is a critical initial hurdle to overcome. As Neil Eriksson, the development manager of Pocit with his team – most of whom are younger than 30 – says: “The knowledge that we’re dealing with people’s money is a significant moderator. We use a cluster database which is cutting edge technology and as we grow we add more servers or nodes to it, it’s a little like the concept behind Google’s servers. It means too that we don’t have to go through huge redesigns”. “We’re also making the application usable on all phones, the application is now 300kb, and we’re presently testing a version below 64kb. Imagine having a book with 12 chapters and compressing it all into one smaller chapter? This is a unique and challenging industry, there is no end to the excitement, and it’s also part of making South Africa a world leader and that is a really fulfilling concept.”

Pocit is still a young brand that is continually being enhanced and although cell phone companies say no cell phone payment system has ever been hacked into anywhere in the world, security remains a priority. As part of our campaign evaluation, we ran an online survey on the Student Village website which is accessed by campuses nationally. The 500 survey respondents told us that:

  • 63% of respondents know Pocit and correctly described it as a “personal payment system on your phone.”
  • Most heard about Pocit through Student Village, SMS and campus media.
  • 87% of respondents said that they would continue to use Pocit.
  • Airtime is the most popular purchase. (MXit Moola was only added to the Pocit application at the end of the campaign).
  • Paying people was the second most popular use.

As part of the student activation plan, Pocit also launched a Brand Ambassador Program that enabled students who signed up to the program to earn financial rewards for every person that they signed up. 64% of the respondents were aware of the program. South Africa, where one in three people have a cell phone is one of the world’s best incubators and testing fields for new cell phone technology, but our experience has shown us that the market with the fastest understanding and take-up of innovation in this area is without a doubt among students.

David Reynders is managing director of Pocit.

Contact information:
David Reynders
Managing Director
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Issued by:
Charlene Smith Communications
call 011 646 7637 or 021 762 2656
Charlene Smith Communications (Pty)Ltd

Contact: Leila Beltramo
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Tel: 021 762 2656